Summer festivals and your health

festival health guide

From avoiding STIs to staying hydrated, here’s how to stay healthy during festival season

The summer music festival season is nearly upon on us – a frivolous time of sun, sound systems and your health potentially suffering.  Make sure you’re clapping the bands, not getting the clap, and enjoying the Pyramid stage, not puking into a portaloo, with our cut-out-and-keep guide to festival health.

Download the festival health guide

festival health medicines


There’s nothing to beat the beauty of a festival romance: warm cider in a plastic cup, enthusiastic musings about your favourite bands, and the inevitable late night drunken fumble in a poorly erected tent.

But having sex without a condom increases the chances of pregnancy or contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) such as syphilis, chlamydia or gonorrhoea – but you’d rather head home with someone’s number than inflamed, itchy genitals.

Festivals have emergency contraception and sexual health advice is usually available from onsite medics. So take precautions. Condoms are a must, so keep some near your sleeping bag and in your wallet or pocket.

And if something feels unusual after unprotected sex, speak to your GP as soon as you get back.

Morning after pill

Whatever your method of contraception – preferably one that doesn’t include that rather risky festival favourite, the withdrawal – if it fails, or you forget to use it, don’t panic, you can always get the morning after pill.

It’s available either free with a prescription or, alternatively, Levonelle is available over the counter and can be taken up to 72 hours after sex. It’s not understood exactly how Levonelle works but it’s believed to primarily be effective in delaying ovulation. You can take it more than once in a menstrual cycle and it doesn’t interfere with your usual forms of contraception.

The morning after pill has a 95% effectiveness rate if taken within 24 hours of having sex, 85% if taken within 25-48 hours, and 58% if taken within 49-72 hours.


As the old maxim goes: If you think you’ll have a shag, pop a johnny in your bag.

You might be crowd-surfing to REM but you don’t want to come back with an STI. The answer then is simple: always use a condom.

The reality is you can’t tell who’s got an STI just by looking at them, so do the sensible thing and take the necessary precautions. Festivals are a hotbed of
hormones and horniness, especially when you’ve been soaking up the rays and contents of the beer tent in equal measure.

The most common STIs are gonorrhoea, chlamydia, syphilis, Hepatitis B and C and, in the worst case scenario, HIV. You don’t want any of them.

Let’s be honest, there’s nothing wrong with a healthy indulgence of fervent festival fornication – just make sure the only thing you take away from your revelries is happy memories and not STIs.

Erectile dysfunction

As the inimitable Charles Hawtrey quipped in Carry On Camping: “The young lady was just showing me how to put the pole up”.

But the fact is that exhausting yourself in the mosh pit or imbibing too much Thatchers Gold is simply going to render you inactive in the pantage department
for any late night temptations in the love tent.

Erectile dysfunction – or impotence – is actually a common problem. It can affect men at any age from teens and young men to post-middle age, and can be caused psychologically (depression, exhaustion, relationship problems) and physically (smoking, diabetes, overweight).

Everything in moderation then, and you won’t have any problems getting a stiffy in a jiffy.

General health tips

festival health precautions

Period delay

Festivals aren’t renowned for being the most hygienic places – particularly when it comes to sanitation. A three-day old, reveller-abused portaloo can be a hotbed of filth and all sorts of grossness, so delaying your period will make things more salubrious and healthy – and means you won’t be in there any longer than you have to.


The heady mix of sun, dancing and alcohol can be a risky combination, so make sure you stay hydrated and drink plenty of fresh water. Most festivals supply it
so there’s no excuse not to. Another good tip is to drink water between alcoholic beverages to prevent dehydration and minimise hangovers.

Sun safety

Protect yourself from harmful UVA and UVB rays by using sun cream with a minimum factor of 15. If your skin gets a bit scorched, apply some soothing after-sun. Other good tips are wearing a wide-brimmed hat to protect your ears and neck and wearing a shirt to cover your shoulders and back.


Never take a BBQ that has been lit inside a tent, caravan or awning (or any enclosed space) – even one that has gone out – there is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and this has caused deaths in the past (further information).

Avoid unpleasant cases of food poisoning by making sure BBQ’d food is piping hot in the middle, no pink meat is visible, and any juices are clear – and keep items such as salads, milk and meats cool.

Other essential tips

  • Clothing: Take waterproofs to stay dry, and warm clothing for when the temperature drops at night.
  • Gas canisters: Never change gas canisters in or near a tent and always make sure a canister is threaded properly before you light it.
  • Ears: Music at festival soundstages can reach an ear-popping 110dB, so wear earplugs if you’re close to the speakers and give your ears a rest by taking regular breaks from the front rows.
  • Feet: Prevent blisters, fungal infections and trench foot by keeping your feet dry and clean. Take wellies or waterproof boots and plenty of dry socks to change into.
  • Alcohol: Try to keep to the recommended alcohol limits – three to four units for men, two to three for women – and drink plenty of water in between so you don’t get dehydrated.
  • Medication: If you’re on medication, bring your own and take it as prescribed and keep it on you or stored safely in the medical centre. If you’re even slightly asthmatic, bring your inhaler and spare cartridges. A pack of plasters and disinfectant for minor cuts and grazes are a good bet too.
  • Drugs: If you’re a regular recreational drug user don’t take any more than you’re used to as they can make you feel stressed, paranoid and lost, and avoid ‘legal highs’ which can have unpleasant side effects and make you sick.
  • Personal hygiene: Wash your hands before you eat, after you go to the toilet and if you’ve been handling rubbish. If you get a cut wash it with clean water and get help from the onsite medical team if you think it’s infected.

festival health